In 1905, Agnes George de Mille was born into a show-business family. Her father was a playwright, but it was her Hollywood director uncle who was immortalized by the phrase, “I’m ready for my close-up ...” Following their footsteps into the business, de Mille became a dancer. A successful ballerina, it was as a choreographer that de Mille scored her greatest triumphs.
During her career, she choreographed for the American Ballet Theater and wrote many ballets. Several of her musical comedies and Hollywood productions are still well known today, such as “Oklahoma!,” “Carousel” and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” Through her work, de Mille changed the face of modern American dance by incorporating classical ballet techniques with American dance forms, and revolutionized musical theater by using choreography to both advance the plot and define characters.
During the course of her life, de Mille also lectured and wrote extensively, publishing 12 books. Following a crippling stroke in 1979, she wrote “Reprieve,” chronicling her recovery. She received numerous honorary degrees, the New York Critics Award, the Antoinette Perry Award, the Dancing Masters Award of Merit, the Capezio Award and the Handel Medallion for Achievement in the Arts. She was named Woman of the Year by the American Newspaper Women’s Guild in 1946 and was named to the Theatre Hall of Fame in 1973.
De Mille died in New York City in 1993.